10 Cape winemakers to watch

 Craig Sheard, Elemental Bob

Craig SheardAdding a South African accent to the natural wine movement is Craig Sheard, better known to his friends and followers as Elemental Bob.

After tinkering away with his own project for a decade while holding down a day job with other wineries, 2015 is the first vintage where quantities have been big enough – 17 barrels of white and 10 of red – to justify exploring export markets.

This expansion has been aided by the steady development of a more receptive audience for this type of minimal intervention winemaking. “Ten years ago people didn’t really understand what I was doing,” recalls Sheard. “But then they wanted to understand where their food came from and now it’s the same for wine.”

With names such as “My Chair” – a Verdelho/Chenin/Viognier/Semillon blend from several cooler sites in the Western Cape – and “Cosmic Flower” – a Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Hemel en Aarde – it should come as no surprise that these wines are a philosophical world away from the big brands.

“I want my wines to show a bit of soul,” muses the softly spoken Sheard, who is not averse to trying his hand at creating Madeira-style wines using an incubator or drying grapes on his roof. “I don’t want clinical wines, but I don’t want faulty wines either.”

With only small quantities produced and variable availability of certain vineyards, don’t expect to be able to track down the same wine every vintage. Looking ahead, Sheard outlines plans for a slightly different approach, saying: “Eventually when I find the right place I want to make single vineyard wines – but a little left-field.”

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